Author: Alan Kelly
Published: 09:29 13/03/2015
The Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle at 2.05 looks as competitive as ever on first glance but this years renewal lacks the class usually associated with the 2m 1f handicap hurdle, won 12 months ago by the Paul Nicholls-trained Lac Fontana who just got the better of this year's Champion Hurdle runner up Arctic Fire by half a length. The 146-rated pair of Hawk High and Cheltenian top the weights on 11st 12lb but it is the Irish-trained runners who could well end up dominating the race as they are responsible for 50% of the field of 26.
The Game Changer will be having his first start for trainer Gordon Elliott and this hold-up horse loves these big-field handicaps so looks sure to run well while Princely Conn and Sort It Out are two JP McManus-owned runners who take the eye towards the bottom of the handicap but the selection is Quick Jack from the shrewd stable of Tony Martin.
The last time the six-year-old was seen over hurdles in Britain was when winning over the course in November 2013 comfortably beating his 18 rivals which included Deep Trouble, Three Kingdoms and Vibrato Valtat. While that was off a mark of 113 the son of Footstepsinthesand will need to defy a 23lb hike in the weights if he is to follow up but the gelding has continued to improve since that victory and has the services of the decent 5lb claimer Shane Shortall.
After finishing a creditable third in the Boylesports.com Hurdle back in January 2014 Quick Jack was switched to the Flat for his next run in a Galway 2m handicap which he won with the minimum of fuss before being trained with York's Ebor in mind. The horse failed to make the cut for Europe's most valuable handicap but did make the line up for Newmarket's Cesarewitch in which he found only Big Easy and De Rigueur to good, going down by three quarters of a length and a short head.
No doubt his handler has had this race in mind for the horse for some time and at the 7-1 available with Paddy Power and Ladbrokes can give Martin another festival victory, landing a possible gamble in the process.
Recommendation - 1 Point each-way Quick Jack 7-1 ( Paddy Power and Ladbrokes )